Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest station groups in the country, is cutting about 5% of the workforce, job reductions that the company said was due to decline in revenue from the Covid-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for Sinclair said in a statement, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt across all sectors of the economy, something that can have a profound impact on a company as diversified as ours. From local businesses and advertisers to distributors and partners, no component of our business’s ecosystem has been fully shielded from the impact of the global pandemic. In response to this, we are currently undergoing enterprise-wide reductions across our workforce, including corporate headquarters, to ensure we are well-positioned for future success.”
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The company has 9,211 employees, a spokesperson said. Based on the 5% figure, that would mean the impact would affect roughly 460 employees, although it was unclear how many of the job reductions were through layoffs or cuts to unfilled positions.
Although it is the No. 2 owner of local TV stations in the U.S., Sinclair has ardently sought to redefine itself and expand beyond the station business. In 2019, it was eclipsed in the local sector by Nexstar, which bought Tribune Media after a proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger failed to clear regulatory hurdles and was abandoned.
Sports soon became the North Star for Sinclair. The company led the $9.6 billion acquisition of 21 formerly Fox-owned regional sports networks, which were jettisoned as part of Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox. After closing that purchase in 2019, Sinclair rebranded the under the Bally betting name to emphasize the gambling dimension of sports media in recent times. The company also teamed with the Chicago Cubs to launch a Chicago-based RSN, Marquee. Sinclair also owns the Tennis Channel and a free, ad-supported sports streaming outlet called Stadium.
Just weeks after Marquee went on the air, Covid-19 shut down sports for months, which immediately hurt the full RSN portfolio. Far fewer games were played and ratings for those that did happen were soft. Major distribution partners Dish Network, YouTube TV and Hulu have declined to renew the RSNs, impasses that have cost the company millions in revenue.
In an earnings call last week, president and CEO Chris Ripley said that the “media industry and Sinclair faced and continue to face many disruptions in core advertising, distribution revenues and live sporting events. However, built-in hedges to shorten professional sports seasons as well as record political revenues helped to offset some of the declines brought about by the pandemic.”
Sinclair reported revenues of $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter, a decrease of almost 7% from a year earlier. Net income was $467 million, compared to $44 million in the same period a year earlier.
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